skyscraper-3184798_1280_Learning from Giants

May 4, 2019

Building an Intelligent Enterprise: Learning from the Giants

Alan Tan

Alan Tan

Managing Director, Solutions

"…84% of CEOs expect digital initiatives to increase profit margins”*

In fact, CEOs are unlikely to cut technology spending in the face of weakening economies because they can't afford to impede crucial digital business initiatives required for long-term growth and managing the customer experience, according to research from Gartner.

Innovate or Die

Look around us. Thanks to Tesla, cars no longer have to burn fossil fuels. What more, they are not merely driving themselves, but us. Amazon knows when we need a resupply and delivers it to our doorstep, using drones (in the near future). Netflix effectively ended channel surfing frustration by understanding what we like to watch and dishes out an endless supply of binge-worthy content. And Apple? They changed the world by miniaturizing vast amounts of computing power to fit in the palm of our hands, spurring a revolution that enabled true mobility, powering world economies.

Sometimes, it’s hard to fathom the global scale at which these behemoths operate, and even harder to imagine them growing any further. But we all know that they are unstoppable, challenging even the highest of authorities, pushing boundaries to solve increasingly complex problems, to simplify transactions, and our lives, enabling us to focus on what truly matters.

Be it the innovation hotbed of Seattle or Silicon Valley, the CEOs of these giants, along with many of their peers, understand the pace of change and resulting disruption are accelerating and share this in common: they have internalized the proverbial “Innovate or Die” and have prioritized technology as a core competency instead of treating it as a commodity.

These CEOs are partnering with CIOs on a very strategic journey, one of digital transformation, to build their “Infinite Intelligent Enterprise.”

The Key Ingredient

Just like tech giants, and peers in every other industry, energy and utilities organizations around the globe are also facing disruption of their own. Only the select few can grow by M&A. But all can and must innovate to build new revenue streams, create reimagined business models, from design to operate. These efforts in continuous enterprise transformation must result in delivering truly differentiated customer experiences.

While there is no one-size-fits all innovation model, requiring each organization to craft their own strategy, there are common denominators such as the following that we can learn from the giants to approach becoming an intelligent enterprise:

  • Understanding the competitive landscape, culture, funding sources, strengths, opportunities
  • Managing the product lifecycle, not projects
  • Clarity of vision
  • Not being afraid to take calculated risks
  • Ability to execute and rapidly innovate, leveraging the cloud, AI, ML, RPA, cybersecurity, off-the-shelf solutions and products and DevSecOps
  • Strong collaboration with all constituents
  • Embracing a data driven approach
  • Developing metrics to measure progress and gather feedback
  • Actively listening to your customers
  • Having the focus and built-in agility to incorporate feedback, pivot, rinse…and repeat

Each of them deserves a lengthy discussion on their own. However, after having served at one of the most valuable companies in the world architecting their global billing, payments and reporting engines, I have experienced something that most might not be believe to be true.

Most people on the outside don’t see past the shroud and assume that these giants employ the brightest minds in walled gardens to do all their research, develop their own tools and competencies, to build their products and services, from the ground up, in order to innovate and differentiate themselves.

While that is true to a large extent, these giants, do one thing and do it really well. They focus on their core competencies and are crystal clear on why they exist as an organization. They don’t have all the answers but they know how to get them. They know that no man is an island and that two heads are better than one. That it takes a highly organized and collaborative team to pull off the level of rapid innovation that they envision. And it might surprise you that even these mighty giants, share a key ingredient beyond the list of common denominators. They understand the power of teams and roam with best-of-breed experts in the respective fields, to deliver the outcomes they desire.

After all, so what if one has the best strategy, all the funds in the world, to buy the best technology in the world, but not the right team of highly skilled individuals who share a common vision, to design, organize and put the most sophisticated robots to work, and not to mention, maintain them for optimal performance. Our human intellect and mastery is still an essential, if not THE most important, component to innovation.

Accelerating towards an Intelligent Enterprise

So given the wealth and resources at their disposal, why would they want or require the services of experts? Can’t they do it better themselves? Absolutely! But as with everything, there are trade-offs.

They are 100% focused on their mission and are disciplined in making strategic buy vs build decisions. When CIOs enlist the help of expert partner organizations to maintain and develop their operational systems, it has helped them to:

  1. Focus on investing talent and building out their core business competencies instead of peripheral and supporting apps/infrastructure
  2. Create whitespace for their employees to engage in higher value add activities e.g. innovate on the business model, develop requirements and desired outcomes
  3. Defray the risks of an aging workforce, the war for talent; attracting, retaining, developing, equipping them with new skills and at the necessary levels of competency
  4. Be exposed to concepts, ideas and practices from outside the organization by leveraging the industry and solution knowledge of the experts
  5. Be inducted to a network and community of like-minded organizations with which to learn, share and co-innovate
  6. Attain access to lower cost structures to deliver the desired outcomes
  7. Achieve agility as a competitive differentiator by accelerating the delivery of their products and services to market at the highest levels of quality

Energy and utilities, like tech giants and many other industries, operate in a high-volume environment in every aspect of the word: customers, miles of assets, transactions, data, dollars, etc. It is imperative as a matter of business sustainability that they innovate at the speed and scale of business and they are rising up to that challenge. This requires strong leadership, clarity of vision, leveraging appropriate technology and partnering with experts in the field, to operate as a highly cohesive unit to bring about the desired business outcomes, with agility, as an ”Infinite Intelligent Enterprise.”

If you would like to discuss how your utility can apply and operationalize more innovation, I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about building your own intelligent utility enterprise. Reach out to me directly ( or email us at


*Clint Boulton. “Why CEOs must go big in digital (or go home),” CIO Magazine, May 2, 2016.